Toxic corn and cotton pollute our streams

Steve Connor writes in The Independent 28 Sep 2010 that GM maize ‘has polluted rivers across the United States’:
An insecticide used in genetically modified (GM) crops grown extensively in the United States and other parts of the world has leached into the water of the surrounding environment.

The insecticide is the product of a bacterial gene inserted into GM maize and other cereal crops to protect them against insects such as the European corn borer beetle. Scientists have detected the insecticide in a significant number of streams draining the great corn belt of the American mid-West.

The researchers detected the bacterial protein in the plant detritus that was washed off the corn fields into streams up to 500 metres away. They are not yet able to determine how significant this is in terms of the risk to either human health or the wider environment.

This is the same “gene from the bacterium Bacillus thuriengensis (Bt)” used in Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready cotton and peanuts and soybeans. Since 99+% of cotton in Georgia was planted from Monsanto seeds by 2009 (with similar percentages for the other crops), this is the insecticide leaching into all our streams and rivers.

One of the authors, Emma J. Rosi-Marshall, who got her Ph.D. at the University of Georgia, remarks:

“Our research adds to the growing body of evidence that corn crop byproducts can be dispersed throughout a stream network, and that the compounds associated with genetically modified crops, such as insecticidal proteins, can enter nearby water bodies.”
In this article, the authors don’t say what the effects might be, but on her own web page Rosi-Marshall notes:
In laboratory feeding trials, when caddisflies were fed on genetically-modified corn material, they had decreased growth rates (Rosi-Marshall et al. 2007).
So it seems likely there are also effects in the wild.

And all this is unnecessary, since non-GM corn (without the bT insecticide) is more profitable.

Here’s the actual study: Occurrence of maize detritus and a transgenic insecticidal protein (Cry1Ab) within the stream network of an agricultural landscape, by Jennifer L. Tanka, J. Rosi-Marshallb, Todd V. Royer, Matt R. Whiles, Natalie A. Griffiths, Therese C. Frauendorf, and David J. Treering, PNAS September 27, 2010, Published online before print September 27, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1006925107.


PS: This post owed to John Pate.